Imagine you are in a traditional class at a high school or college in 1988. You are sitting at a small, wooden desk looking at the chalkboard being used by your instructor, who is probably sporting big hair or a mullet. You are surrounded by about 20 classmates trying to hand-write as many notes as possible before being erased by your instructor. No laptops, screens, smartphones or any other forms of technologies at your disposal.
“We had [the portable cell phone],” Cheryl Gensler said, who attended Pulaski High School in Milwaukee in the early ‘90s. “It was almost like a purse, so we had that.”
If you were going to write a paper, you used this gigantic, heavy object where if you made a mistake, would require you to start over again.
“We had manual typewriters where we had to do our homework,” Gensler said. “We didn’t have any saves or flash drives or anything like that. Basically everything was either handwritten or typed on a typewriter.”
Now imagine being in the exact same classroom today. The desks are still small but no longer wooden, your instructor either has short or long hair, and you are looking at a screen with a bunch of words on it for you to either write or type. Laptops, screens, smartphones, or other technology forms are in every single person’s possession.
It is perceived nowadays that a classroom without any forms of these technologies is abnormal.
Well, that is something we call domestication.
New communication technologies are now the norm in schools. Instructors will more likely than not teach their classes via PowerPoint or some other digital format. Laptops are essentially required to pass a course.
And to see how new communication technologies have changed in schools from the late 20th century to the early 21st century is remarkable.
The transformation of these technologies has also made it easier for many professors to teach their classes.
UW-Whitewater communications instructor Amal Ibrahim has been teaching since technologies in schools were seen at one point as extraordinary. She teaches a variety of video production classes on the UW-W campus, and says new communication technologies are nothing short of beneficial.
“Especially if we’re talking about production classes, then technologies is for sure transformed this for the best,” Ibrahim said. “I started with times where equipment was huge, quality was horrible, [and] editing was very time consuming. And I saw through the years how all of these are just changing our experience, the number of projects you can do, the things that students can learn [and] the skills can they have. It’s just definitely a blessing.”
The evolution of new communication technologies has also had a huge effect on teaching journalism and the journalism field itself. Digital media stories are more popular than ever, whether they are on a newspaper’s website or social media platform.
“Those [technologies] are especially important,” UW-Whitewater journalism professor Dr. Keith Zukas said. “Media workers in the industry now need to navigate a lot of these new technologies so they can be successful and on the cutting edge as new technologies emerge.”
Zukas realizes that there are a lot of people from the older generation who will still refrain to read news stories in front of a screen. Perhaps it is because of what they grew up with, but Zukas thinks that these new technologies will only get more common for journalism students and journalists in the field.
“I think that’s a great thing about coming to a four-year school is that students get an education about media industry, and that helps us look to the future as well,” Zukas said. “But the old ones don’t fade away either. They find new markets, they find niche markets, and the beauty actually of the Internet because there’s a relatively low barrier to entry…everyone can access it.”
Perceptions of new technologies in schools nowadays are probably either enjoying the technological change or just going with it. Gensler is one example of someone that is allowing the technology to take her wherever she goes, despite having her skepticisms of not only herself but for her two kids, who are in high school and middle school, respectively.
“I think there’s a lot of things pushed as far as opinion,” Gensler said. “Sometimes kids nowadays tend to feed off of things like that instead of maybe even figuring what their own opinion would be.”
Not only is Gensler concerned of poor media influence from the variety of technological platforms, but she also misses the traditional ways of studying in the library.
Most school libraries still have thousands of books stocked into several shelves, but because of how much the Internet has changed research methods for students, libraries would probably not succeed as much if students did not carry their laptops with them.
The domestic change of technologies in school libraries is just another factor Gensler is concerned of.
“They [my kids] have the library at their school, but it’s so easy for them now to pick up their technology,” Gensler said. “It’s just one thing I would like them to know is what happened if all this stuff went away? Now where do we go? Oh look there’s a book…I just want them to experience that.”
New technologies vanishing sometime in the future might be a possibility, but it is not all bad. It has rather inspired others to make a push for their career paths.
UW-Whitewater offers a variety of majors, minors and occupations directly related to using new technologies to the fullest to succeed. Many students alike and a couple in particular have taken this career path simply because of the uniqueness of these technologies.
Junior accounting and information technology double major Kayla Williams her whole life has been around an iMac, where she could do her own research and experiments at home.
“I wasn’t someone that had to stay at school and do extra research,” Williams said. “But then it was also the different educational games that I was able to do extra in my learning.”
Williams acknowledges that she is not completely familiar with IT, but ultimately decided to add it to her accounting major simply because of her prior experience with computers.
“I just know the different context of ERP systems, so it’s just a giant system,” Williams said. “And that’s what the majority of people are switching to now because of how much data it stores.”
Accounting, though, has been Williams’ interest ever since attending UW-W. She really enjoys the fact that accounting firms are using these technologies in a variety of ways and thinks it benefits everyone.
“Something as simple as using Google just throughout their whole companies for communicating the Google Doc concept of multiple people being able to use it,” Williams said. “Firms are now looking at that as, ‘Oh. Now we can do just everything at the same time.’”
Another major directly targeting the domestication of new communication technologies is electronic media, something senior Richard Houcque plans to get a degree in. Houcque is also a video production assistant for the UW-W marketing and media relations department and loves using cameras to give meaning to life.
“Life goes by really fast,” Houcque said. “So if I can look through those moments through a lens, I can have the power to slow those moments down. And by slowing it down just enough I have the power to inspire and move people with my production.”
But making a video production is a tedious process. It takes a variety of thought, research, creativity and flexibility to produce about a two or three-minute long video.
Being the video production assistant he is, Houcque frequently goes through this process and thanks to his years of experience, it is all worth it for him.
“Basically the steps are good preparation and kind of envisioning what the final product will look like,” Houcque said. “It takes a while. But with repetition, it works.”
With new communication technologies changing the lifestyles of students and professors, it is very clear that these technologies have domesticated the ways schools function, for better or for worse.
Some professors love that it helps advance their teaching experience. Some students love that it helps determine what their hopeful future will look like.
Others are fearful that new technologies are encapsulating too much out of student’s educational lives and rather prefer them to use traditional forms of learning.
But whether you like it or not, the show will continue to go on. Domestication of new technologies in schools is very real, and will continue to be until maybe a new innovation overtakes it in the future.
For schools right now, it is just the beginning.